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Per pupil spending totals climb in public school districts across Utah

Significant differences exist between urban and rural school district spending in Utah.

The differences are particularly pronounced when pupil/teacher ratios, teachers as a percent of total personnel and per student expenditures are considered.

Basically, urban school districts along the Wasatch Front have the highest pupil/teacher ratios, lowest per student spending and the highest percent of personnel that are teachers.

But on average, total per student spending by school districts across the state increased 0.4 percent in 2003

Operations spending per student decreased 1.4 percent, while capital and interest spending per pupil jumped 9.2 percent, indicated the Utah Taxpayers Association's recently completed school district spending report.

Using the most current raw data from all 40 school districts in the state and the Utah Office of Education, independent public policy organization calculated per student expenditures for instruction, transportation, operations, capital and interest.

In addition, the report contains information on pupil/teacher ratios, teachers as a percent of personnel and property tax rates.

The highlights of the independent public organization's evaluation of the public school system's finacial practices includes the following:

•Total spending reached $2.947 billion in 2003, a 1.2 percent increase from $2.912 billion in 2002.

Total spending includes instructional, administration, food service, facility acquisition and construction costs, and interest payments.

Excluded from the amount are school district enterprise funds and payments toward bond principles.

•Instructional spending per student decreased 3 percent from $3,289 in 2002 to $3,192 in 2003.

•Maintenance and operation spending per student at school district statewide decreased 1.4 percent from $4,750 in 2002 to to $4,682 last year.

The amount includes instructional expenditures.

•Capital and interest expen-ditures per student climbed 9.3 percent from $943 in 2002 to $1,030 in 2003.

•Excluding school lunch, total spending per student in 2003 registered at $5,862, nearly identical to 2002's figure ofr $5,841.

•Instructional spending comprised 68 percent of all operational costs in 2003.

Since 1987, the percent of operational spending that has been appropriated to instruction annually has fluctuated between 68 percent and 71 percent.

School districts have four major sources of revenues: property taxes, other local revenue such as fees and interest on account balances, state income taxes and state liquor tax (for school lunch), and federal dollars.

Property taxes are almost evenly split between operations and capital/debt service. State sources are almost entirely spent on operations as are two-thirds of federal revenue.

School district operations receive nearly 70 percent of its funding from the state income tax. Capital and debt service receive 86.5 percent of its funding from property tax with most of the remaining coming from state income taxes by way of the state capital outlay program. Nearly 50 percent of food service costs are funded by the federal government.

Statewide, 69.3 percent of school district operations are funded by state income taxes, but the variation on a district-bydistrict basis is quite large. Park City, for example, receives only 17 percent of its operations funding from the state while Tintic receives 90 percent of its operations funding from the state. This is attributable to high assessed property valuations per student in Park City and very low assessed valuations per student in Tintic.This combination allows more local property taxes to be spent per student which reduces the amount of state income taxes per student that the district receives.

Despite the very low growth in student expenditures in FY2003, school district expenditures per student have increased at a rate greater than inflation since 1997.

The annualized inflation rate from 1997 to 2003 was 2.4 percent.

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